Archive for the 'Mammals' Category

11
Jan
23

Fools dancing before an abyss.

It dawned on me quite early in my life that the way to protect the wildlife and birds in an area is to protect the area itself. Protecting the environment is key to having a safe home and area for creatures to live and breed. It’s not bloody rocket science is it? Cut down a forest for agriculture and everything in the forest will die or have to move elsewhere. Concrete and tarmac over a wild area and the insects that are key to supporting our wildlife will die or move on. Insect life supports everything above it like a Jenga tower. Pull out too many bricks and the whole lots clatters downward. The problem is we are running out of areas for our creatures to move to and we are loosing wildlife habitat and consequently our wildlife at a rate of knots.

Those of you that live locally will know of the area that is just to the West of Cromer on the South side of the A149 coast road. A wild piece of land full of bushes and scrub, often referred to as the site of the old zoo; not only important for breeding birds but also for migrants. Scrub is such an important habitat. It is not waste land. It’s essential habitat. I’ve seen Ring Ousel here, Red backed Shrike, Citrine Wagtail, Barred Warbler as well as commoner migrants. Those of you that have lived here longer than I will know of more rarities found here on migration. Well no more!

The area has been cleared. It’s gone. bulldozed and cut away to nothing. Some, self-important, pound greedy, cretin of an imbecile, has ordered the whole area to be cleared. We are in the middle of a biodiversity crisis and some idiot did this.

A few years ago I was just one of the individuals that objected to a building development on the land. For all the reasons outlined above, it did not seem like a good idea. Well take away all the ideal habitat and all the reasons to object are swept aside. Ruthless.

It was friend Andy (his photo below) that told me of the clearance. I went that morning to take a look. I was so so dejected. When will people understand that we are sawing away at the branch of the tree we are sat on. Bloody fools. Complete and utter … BLOODY FOOLS!

Photo credit: Andy Hale

31
Dec
22

Happy New Year

Well, the end of 22 is just about upon us and 2023 is about to open its doors. It’s been a more relaxed year here on the North Norfolk coast with restrictions fading into memory and life returning to somewhat like normal.

Throughout 2022 there have been several low points. Leaving Scillies in October the day after the Blackburnian Warbler turned up was one. Visiting Manchester and seeing the amount of litter both in the city centre and surrounding countryside was another; seeing such disregard for the environment was not just disappointing, but stomach churning.

Thankfully there have been some outstanding high points; including several ‘firsts’ for me. Eleonora’s Falcon, Cape Gull, Glanville Fritillary and Late Spider Orchid being a few examples.

Episodes with Broomrape, Bee Eaters and Little Buntings were entertaining and far reaching.

Despite foreign travel being shunned by Tania and me until next year we’ve had a number of trips here at home and tours have been UK wide. Scotland appeared on the agenda four times with Dumfriesshire, Sutherland and the Spey Valley twice. Scillies was visited twice with Spring and Autumn breaks. There were also tours to Knepp in West Sussex and the East coast including the Farne Islands. A very successful trip to Cumbria was enjoyed for its butterflies and dragonflies. We had a personal trip to the Isle of Wight which was very productive. A short trip to Kent with Tania and Tony took some topping; the range of Orchids we found coupled with time watching an Eleonora’s Falcon would take some beating. By a hair’s breadth however my moment of the year was in October on the island of Tresco. The day I spent with Tania photographing a Swainson’s Thrush was for me just the biz!

It’s been a long time since I have seen this diminutive, subtly marked species, so well. Seeing American Thrushes in the Americas is wonderful. Seeing one in the UK is always a thrill; but actually spending an extended period of time with one at close range was just exhilarating.

We are both looking forward to the New Year and what it brings, and hope you are too. Happy New Year from us both.

18
Dec
22

Pining

A visit to the Northern Highlands is just not the same without a sighting of a Pine Marten. We saw two a couple of weeks ago in Scotland including this beautiful female.

09
Nov
22

Why on earth is this happening?

Take a read. You may be as horrified as I am. Why inoculated Badgers may be being shot is beyond my comprehension.

https://www.rarebirdalert.co.uk/v2/Content/Government_culling_Badgers_in_11_new_area.aspx?s_id=256627096

14
Oct
22

Rodent

I was working on the laptop when the mobile rang. I knew it was Tania immediately because I could hear her talking outside through the open window. She beckoned me outside to see a ‘mouse’.

She had actually found a very young Short tailed Field Vole; it was happily feeding on crumbled muesli bar casually being sprinkled around it by my entranced wife. I could tell by the expression on its furry little face that it thought all its Christmases had come at once. Anyways we relocated it off the tarmac road onto the grass border to give it a little cover from the ever-present Herring Gulls.

05
Oct
22

The Eroding of Wildlife Protection within the UK

Like many others I was appalled at some of the press articles last week outlining changes the government were proposing. I was prompted to write the following letter to my MP Duncan Baker. Duncan has helped Tania and I out on a couple of occasions previously and has forced through decisions and prompted action which have helped us personally. His reply is also published below which makes for an interesting read.

————————————————

Dear Mr Baker,

You have helped me in the past and I am once again looking to you to help me again.

I am a Wildlife Tour operator based in your constituency in Norfolk. I am writing to express my concerns over recent government announcements that I believe, as do many environmental organisations, will significantly reverse the UK’s ambitions for nature recovery over the coming decade.

Our wild flora and fauna are in a perilous state, as a result of decades of agricultural intensification, increased development (houses, roads, railways, extractive industries) and more insidious threats such as air and water pollution, unsustainable land use practices in the uplands (over-grazing, burning, plantation forestry), the spread of invasive non-native species and, in recent decades, climate change.

The government’s plans to revoke hundreds of laws that protect wild places and standards for water quality, pollution and the use of pesticides will make matters worse, as will the implementation of new planning infrastructure which threatens to weaken vital protections for habitats and wildlife. I am also concerned that the proposed review of the long-awaited Environmental Land Management schemes – which would reward farmers for restoring nature, preventing pollution and climate-proofing their business – will lead to reduced ambition and consequently financial support for activities that help combat both the nature and climate crises.

As well as meeting hundreds of like minded people during my employment I also work for and am active as a trustee within several charities; most notably the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists’ Society.  Through scientific surveys the Society is able to provide decision-makers (conservationists, land managers, policy-makers) and academics with the evidence they need to make sensible decisions about our county’s wildlife – without a healthy wild flora many species dependent on wild plants will suffer. The current trends for much of our flora and fauna amounts to nothing less than a doomsday prediction.

If we are to reverse these declines then we will need a government that is committed to protecting and enhancing our nation’s wildlife, not one that is prepared to relax laws that protect wildlife and remove funding of schemes that will help restore and recover what we have lost. I strongly recommend that the government sticks to its original commitments to reverse biodiversity loss and recover nature for future generations to enjoy.

You must recognise Duncan that the restoration of a thriving wildlife infrastructure within our county and country is paramount to the continuance of life as we know it for us all.

Please be a voice to act against the proposed changes.

Best regards

Carl Chapman

Wildlife Tours and Education

————————————————

Dear Carl, 

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about protecting the environment. I’m so sorry this is not a fully bespoke response. I have been so busy last week with final preparations for the London Marathon which I completed on Sunday, that I am just getting round to read all the emails I’ve received and provide a response.

It has been a real privilege to again raise well over £30,000 for 26 local charities and nearly £75,000 over two years for 40 different local charities from what all started as a hobby in lockdown. Once more I’ve been able to donate £1000 for each mile I completed and £5000 on mile 26 to help refugees in Norfolk still unable to return home. Indeed, today is the 6 month anniversary of the Ukrainian family arriving, Anna and Sviatik who are still happily living with my family.

As you likely know, protecting the environment, especially our wonderful wildlife and beautiful countryside here in North Norfolk, is incredibly important to me.

I want to entirely reassure your concerns. Claims that this government is rowing back on our commitments to farming reform or nature are wholly untrue. As you may be aware, I am a huge advocate for the environment. I currently sit on the Environmental Audit Select Committee and as such always champion the environment, as this is a matter that I feel incredibly strongly about.

The statement from DEFRA making this very clear is here:

https://deframedia.blog.gov.uk/2022/09/26/government-reiterates-commitment-to-environmental-protections/

I have brought forward many inquiries into embodied carbon for buildings, plastic pollution and the upkeep of biodiversity through my select committee work. In addition, no one in Parliament has done more to stop the trenching through our countryside from the cable corridors from the wind turbines. All in order to protect nature.
I have also discussed throughout the Environment Bill in 2021 the importance of putting the environment at the heart of the government’s decision making, with legally binding targets on biodiversity, air quality and waste efficiency.

It’s clear to me you also care deeply about the environment, and I note you raise several important topics in your email. I will happily discuss them with you and cover the questions you ask.

Firstly, to be absolutely clear, I do not want to see any backtracking on key environmental protections. We have made great progress over the past few years, as well as delivered ambitious commitments and targets. Rest assured I am determined we continue this trajectory and have seen nothing to date that makes me think we won’t.

I appreciate that you have concerns over the possible impact investment zones will have on the environment. However, I have to say, I see no immediate cause for unease. Investment zones will promote growth and unlock housing by lowering taxes and liberalising our planning frameworks to foster rapid development and investment across the UK. It is not an either/or in my mind – we can achieve growth without harming the environment – we will work towards both.

Secondly, regarding the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), I understand and appreciate your concern here. I also appreciate the Government is having to find a balance between some very big and complex issues – namely, boosting the environment, supporting farmers, and furthering domestic food security. As a result, I have heard the Government is reviewing our farming regulations and will comment on this in due course. We of course need food security whilst enabling our farmers continue to be custodians for our countryside. This is all the review appears to be.

Naturally, like you, I will be playing close attention, and will voice my views when appropriate. In the meantime, I will certainly endeavour to convey your strength of feeling and resolute support for ELMS to ministerial colleagues at DEFRA. I hope this can reassure you somewhat.

Thirdly, I certainly will do everything I can to protect and enhance nature at home. I hope my actions and commitments I’ve made thus far can reassure you of this. From sitting on the Environmental Audit Select Committee and the Net-Zero APPG, to working on legislation to increase biodiversity, I have consistently sought to create a better greener country. It is an essential part of my being MP for North Norfolk and will not stop.

COP15 will provide a fantastic opportunity to further not just a greener country but a greener world. I am therefore pleased to see the Government has already committed to playing a leading role in developing an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework to be adopted at COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Rest assured, the UK will continue to push for global ambitious targets.

Many thanks again for taking the time to contact me. I do hope my response is useful and adequately answers your questions. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if I can clarify anything.

Yours sincerely,

Duncan Baker MP
Member of Parliament for North Norfolk

05
Sep
22

Wild Ken Hill

One of the best places in the county to see Grey Partridge is Wild Ken Hill between Snettisham and Heacham in the West of Norfolk. Book yourself on a ‘Big Picture Tour’ for a trip around the estate and learn what good work the WKH team are doing on the farm and in the rewilding area to look after our wildlife and produce our food sustainably.

01
Aug
22

For the love of Dolphins

Sailing through the Summer Isles off Ullapool last month we were on a glass mirror sea passing rocky outcrops punctuated with Arctic Terns. Young were pestering parents for their next meal … nothing in nature varies in that respect. As we pulled into a sea cave a Common Sandpiper fell from one of the ledges and proclaimed its objections to us being there with a diagnostic call and fluttering flight.

Moving further out from the coast the skipper sighted dolphins ahead. It wasn’t long before we were surrounded by playful, accommodating and very very beautiful Common Dolphins.

They are not there, then they are, then they are gone again. They bow ride and leap from the water. They watch you from under crystal clear water as they swim alongside. There’s something quite enigmatic and mysterious about Common Dolphins. I just love them.

03
Jun
22

Manic Magic

When you go to the Isles of Scilly birding it can be very weather dependent.

Before we arrived at the end of May it seemed all and sundry was arriving on the islands. Then landing alongside our cargo of excited guests arrived a stiff Northerly. It immediately blocked any further migrating birds. That is until the last day.

We had resigned ourselves to the fact we were not going to see much last Tuesday; our last day on the islands. Although the weather had been pleasantly warm and blue skies had prevailed it wasn’t the weather we were hoping for. We had seen the islands at their very best; full of flowers and colour. Even a few good birds did put in an appearance although they were few and far between. Places on aircraft and ship had been booked to relocate us all back to reality and we were making our way to Juliet’s Garden (known to those in the know as Juliet’s Panties) for a final lunch. As we walked along Porthloo Lane I was recounting tales of Yellow Billed Cuckoo’s and traffic jam creating twitches, when I heard a sound; a call of a bird that I knew well, but for a minute I couldn’t place it. The penny then dropped. I searched the top of the elms from where the sound emanated and there they were; four Bee Eaters.

The mood instantly changed in the group. News was immediately put out and people began to arrive. As I stared at the colourful Europeans something in the distance caught my focus. We had not seen a raptor all week and there was one now sailing across my field of view. A long tail and narrow wings confirmed a harrier. All grey; a male. Scillies, end of May. This should have been a Pallid or at worst a Montague’s. No. The wings were too broad and the dark wedges in the primaries too thick. The structure and flight were all wrong for a ‘rare’ harrier. This was a Hen Harrier. A Hen Harrier that had no right to be here at this time of the year. We watched it float high over Hugh town and out to St Agnes.

The Bee Eaters floated off high to the North. This was jat as well. I wouldn’t have liked to have left four Bee Eaters showing well … even for lunch.

Lunch was good. It always is at Juliet’s. We bade goodbye to some catching flights while others stayed to chat waiting for the Scillonian III to beckon. I relaxed in the warm sunshine and stretched out my legs and bathed my face in the heat. Staring at the sky I spotted another raptor. A small falcon. This was a bird on a mission. It was climbing, and climbing high. Compact, pale and as un-kestrel like as any small falcon could be. A probable Red Footed Falcon was leaving Scilly … vertically. No scope (packed away), the light and distance not on our side, it has to stay a probable.

The day however wasn’t done.

Leaving on the ship, a Minke Whale put in an appearance just outside the islands. Later a Harbour Porpoise rolled through a flat calm sea. At half way, marked by the Wolf light, a pod of Common Dolphin gave a ‘leaping show’ like no others can. However, what happened next had my jaw dropping.

As the ship steamed up the South coast of Cornwall we started to see flocks of Manx Shearwaters. Small flocks to start with, then bigger ones of a hundred or more birds. Then great ribbons of birds strewn across the sea in great discarded strings. Flocks encircled the Scillionian and at times it seemed as if the ship was sailing through shearwater soup. We estimated that in the last hour of sailing we saw Circa 10,000 Manx Shearwaters. the largest number I have seen of this species anywhere.

It all goes to show it ain’t over ’till the fat lady sings’.

05
Apr
22

Hare’s breadth

This little girl passed close by the other day. Tania said she looked as though she’d had her nose in her mums makeup bag!




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